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Most beautiful people, movie stars and models, they have those classic good looks, you know? They have the symmetrical features, the flawless skin, and the perfect proportions. Good genes, mostly. People born to beauty from beauty. But sometimes you run into someone who is sort of…strikingly beautiful in a way that’s hard to define. Maybe you see a woman and her eyebrows are a little too thick, her nose a little too narrow, her eyes a little misaligned, her mouth a little large. And each and every one of those imperfect features, on their own, simply don’t work. But for some reason, when they all come together…they are attractive in a way that is hard to explain. It is just a sort of accident of nature, beauty out of chaos.
I fall into the latter camp. I swear, I am not bragging. I promised myself when I started this story that I would be objective about what I was talking about, and none of this makes sense if I don’t explain it all. And I honestly don’t take any pride in my “good” appearance. I didn’t do anything to get it. But I know it is there. People have told me my entire life that I am beautiful. But I have always known it wasn’t that “classic” kind of beauty. I have those somewhat bushy, dark eyebrows. My nose is that long and narrow one. I have that right eye that is ever so slightly higher than my left. And I’ve got that mouth that tries to stretch out to my ears when I smile (and those ears are kind of big too). On top of all that, I am short but somehow still willowy, with small breasts, gentle hips, a small butt, and slender legs. My features shouldn’t work, but somehow, together, they do. Those are facts, not ego.
Maybe you’ve wondered, when you’ve seen a person like me, “how does that happen?” Or maybe you haven’t bothered. But the thing is, I can tell you: My parents both have strange features. I have my mother’s eyebrows and her build. I have my father’s nose and ears. I am a hodgepodge of my parent’s strange features. And neither of my parents is what anyone would call “ugly.” But it’s like their features are slightly off. Like they only make sense when they come together on my face and in my body. My mother has said something to that effect for my entire life. I don’t so much have “good genes” as perfectly balance genes.
And that sort of leads us to a discussion of my little brother, Ben. If my features all came together just right, my brother’s came together…just wrong. Like I said, I am trying to be objective. My parents might look a little off, but my brother, I hate to say it, but he is just an ugly guy. He has my father’s large head sitting on my mother’s slender neck . He had my father’s heavily lidded eyes and my mother’s small mouth. He has my mother’s short, slender built (he is only two inches taller than me, and I am 5’2). He has a sort of narrow chest, but a bit of a gut. His hairline was already receding, even though he was only 18. He has scrawny legs and knobby knees. When we stand next to one another, you can tell we are related, but for some reason it just doesn’t work for him.
I never really noticed it when we were kids. Some of that, I guess, is that you just don’t pay attention that kind of stuff when you’re a kid. And he was four years younger than me, I never paid attention. And some of it, I think, was that it got worse as he aged. I mean all kids are cute in some ways. But as his features developed, it just got to be worse.
I honestly didn’t even notice it then. It was my senior year of high school when I realized it. And I only realized it because my new boyfriend (at the time), came right out and said it. We had been walking home from school together (I only lived a couple blocks away). And my brother, a freshman, was walking a little way behind us. As other kids peeled off down side streets, soon it was only me, my brother, and my new boyfriend.
“Oh man, look, Lollipop is following us!” my boyfriend said. I looked behind us, seeing only my brother, didn’t know what he was talking about.
“Who?” I asked, innocently.
“Lollipop!” my boyfriend said incredulously. He looked at me, saw the blank stare remained, and laughed, “Come on Rachel, that kid…Ben. He’s Lollipop.” I laughed a little, wondering what the story was that had earned my brother that nickname.
“Why is he called Lollipop?” I asked.
“You’ve really never heard that?” my boyfriend asked. I shook my head, “Look at that boy’s gigantic head and his scrawny body! He looks like…you know, like a tootsie roll pop.” I turned and slapped him playfully on the arm. Guys were always giving each a hard time. “What?!
“Don’t tease my brother!” I said. Now my boyfriend guffawed.
“Your brother? Come on,” my boyfriend said, incredulous again.
“You’re Lollipop’s sister? I won’t tease him, but don’t have to lie,” my boyfriend responded. Now I was starting to get confused. What did that mean?
“I am Rachel Merten. He is Ben Merten, my little brother. It’s not that big of escort kartal a school, you know that,” I said, “What’s the game here?”
“I have honestly never heard his last name. I have only ever referred to him as something other than ‘Lollipop’ like twice,” he said. Everyone called my brother some sort of mean nickname?
“Well he is my brother, so be nice,” I said, my protective instincts kicking in for the first time in my life. Something about this didn’t feel like a friendly teasing.
“I honestly can hardly believe that you are related,” he said as we kept walking.
“Why?” I said, looking back again at Ben and seeing his familiar features. Just like my parents. Kind of like me, or so it seemed at the time.
“Come on Rachel. You are like…the hottest girl in school. Lollip…Ben, looks like…Bizarre,” he said, and once again I slapped him, less playfully this time. Now I was practically walking backwards, looking at Ben and sort of…seeing him for the first time. I no longer looked at him like my brother, but like a boy…And I saw what my boyfriend was talking about. Ben was a little…strange. He seemed to sense me looking at him, his eyes flickered up and he smiled. I smiled back anxiously and then turned away.
“Hey, no offense. I didn’t know…” my boyfriend started, sensing how uncomfortable I was. I turned and pushed him away slightly.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” I spat at him. I crossed my arms in front of my breasts and started walking quickly towards my house. My boyfriend rushed a little to catch up, “Why don’t you walk to your house, and I will walk to mine.” I said, picking up the pace. The boy pleaded for a block or so, then he got angry and said something I don’t remember. And he stalked off.
I guess I wasn’t really fair to him. I mean, I’d teased people before. I was a kid once. And I’d teased Ben before, though not about his looks. He didn’t know he was mocking my family and he hadn’t said anything that bad. But still, I found myself furious, walking to my house. I was just running my brother’s appearance through my mind. And the way other people reacted to his appearance. I kept getting angrier and angrier, but I couldn’t really explain to myself then why.
I found myself stewing that night and couldn’t really explain it. I didn’t call my boyfriend (in fact, I never called him again. That was it) and I never talked to my brother about it. Or anyone else. It got worse when I went back to school. Now that I was primed to look for it, I noticed the way that people treated my brother. I don’t want to give the impression that he was a heavily bullied kid or that he didn’t have any friends. He had close friends. And he wasn’t even really unpopular or anything. Everyone talked to him. He had a reputation for being a fun guy. And people teased him more than bullied him. But even teasing without malice from your friends can still build up. And girls didn’t really seem to give Ben the time of day. I could sense that too. I could feel it building now, even if Ben didn’t seem to react to it.
About three days after my conversation with my now ex-boyfriend, I actually heard someone refer to my brother as “Lollipop.” Ben was just walking and there were a couple of juniors talking at the car next to them. Two guys and two girls I knew were on the cheerleading squad. One of the guys noticed my brother and yelled out something to the effect that he should join the cheerleading squad. Because his giant head and little body would make it easy to flip him around, end over end. The four of them laughed and my brother just sort of laughed it off. One of the cheerleaders yelled something about how Ben shouldn’t listen to the guy, he was a jerk. But she was laughing too.
I felt the rage that had been stoking and smoking inside of me for days finally burst into flames. Ben and his buddy had already walked away. But I marched across the parking lot and gave the guy a piece of my mind. I honestly don’t remember everything that I said. But I tore into the guy. I told him that if he ever talked about someone in my family like that again, that he would regret it. The guy looked shocked and apologized about thirty times, saying he didn’t mean anything and that he and Ben were friendly. I didn’t care, by the time I left, all four of them were totally silent. I didn’t really feel a lot better.
And anyway, it mostly backfired. A day later, after the whole school buzzed about my blow-up, Ben came into my room after school. “Hey,” he said, “Rachel, can we talk about something?”
“Yeah, what?” I asked. I was laying on my bed, working on some homework. I sat up as Ben walked into the room. This was sort of rare, Ben and I rarely had ‘conversations.’
“So…” Ben said, pausing for a long minute and then looking up at me, “Did you yelled at Jesse and Frank and their girlfriends because they called me ‘Lollipop’?” he asked, his cheeks getting red. I sighed deeply.
“I know, I am maltepe escort so sorry. What they said was totally inappropriate. And I didn’t even know about it until just the other day. If I had known…”
“I am not upset about that,” Ben said quickly, his cheeks getting redder, “Sometimes, people make fun of my big head and stuff. They’ve done it for years. They don’t mean anything by it,” Ben said. I was taken aback. My mouth sort of opened and then closed again.
“Oh,” I said, confused.
“Yeah,” Ben said, his eyes dropping.
“Well I…” I began, but I didn’t know what to say. Ben knew and didn’t care? Or was he just so worn down by it all that… “So why are you here, if you say you don’t care?”
“Don’t do that again,” Ben said, “Don’t yell at any one for me. It is embarrassing.”
“Embarrassing?” I said, ever more confused than before. Ben wasn’t angry at guys at school for mocking him. He was angry at me! For what? Looking out for him?
“I know you were just trying to help,” Ben said quickly, “But… it really isn’t a big deal. Everyone gets made of for something. This is my thing. And making a big deal about it will just make it worse. So…you know, don’t help me.”
“Sorry,” I said, and, I admit now, that sorry was a little sullen and hostile. But Jesus, for the first time in my life I was helping my brother instead of teasing him about something and he acts like a…jerk about it. There was a long pause and Ben shuffled uncomfortably.
“Did you really call Crystal Coakley a ‘shitface’?” Ben asked, smiling a little now. I looked up and him and smiled.
“I don’t know… maybe?” I said, smiling a little now too.
“You know that she tripped during cross country last year and landed in a big pile of dog shit right?” Ben asked. My eyes opened wide and my mouth opened. I let out a little laugh.
“Uh, no. Oh god, I hope I did call her that!” I said, laughing. Ben laughed as well.
“Yeah, she was like…super pissed because you brought that little nickname back in full force. I apologized to her, but I thought it was pretty funny too,” Ben said.
“Maybe I should apologize too,” I said.
“Eh,” Ben said, “She will get over it. She kind of deserves it anyway.”
“See, that’s all I meant!” I said. And Ben laughed now. I paused for a minute, “Hey Ben, I am really sorry. I wasn’t trying to make your life harder. It was trying to do the opposite,” I said, meaning it this time. Ben nodded.
“I know, that’s why I am not angry,” he said simply.
“You’re just my little brother, I care about you,” I said. Ben laughed.
“Since when?” he asked and now I laughed.
“You aren’t as bad as you used to be,” I said, realizing that I was telling the truth. I’d been looking to protect my little baby brother. But the was in high school then. Not a child anymore (at least, not from my 17-year-old perspective). I look back at that conversation now as the first “adult” conversation I ever had with my brother. We interacted…differently after that. I stopped teasing him (mostly) and I found that I could talk to him almost as an equal. He came in with an issue. We discussed it and resolved it. That is a small thing, but some siblings never, ever reach that stage. And I learned that I didn’t just love my little brother because I had to, I liked him too.
And a strange side effect of that realization was that, even though I felt better about my relationship with my brother, I felt worse about the whole “Lollipop” situation. Before, I guess, I’d been at least as angry about my own pride as my brother’s feelings. How dare someone tease MY brother. Now, I was thinking of my brother as a complete person. And I didn’t like that he faced this sort of stuff on a daily basis. And, what was worse, there was nothing I could do to stop it. I wasn’t allowed to even speak about it. I could just stew in it. And that’s basically what I did for that last year of high school any time I thought about my brother.
Even when I went to away to college, I kept worrying about Ben. And, as I started to take psych courses and think through my thought processes, I began to piece together why I was so upset about the “Lollipop” situation and Ben’s experiences at school. I thought about my brother and considered his sort of strange features. I knew the way that people reacted to them. And I felt guilty. We had the same father. We had the same mother. I’d somehow put their unique features together in a way that other people found attractive. My brother had somehow managed to put those features together in a way that made people laugh. And I had no right to be ‘the hottest girl in school’ (even if that was an exaggeration) and Ben had no reason to be…ugly. And I felt bad, I’d won some sort of lottery and he lost. There was no justice in that. It was entirely outside of our control.
I was relieved, I think. Our situation could have easily been reversed and I could have been ugly and pendik escort bayan he could have been handsome. And, like anyone else, I didn’t want to be ugly. I didn’t want people to treat me they way they treated Ben. I liked that people found me appealing. And so, I was happy. But I didn’t like that I felt happy. It seemed shallow and it felt like I was looking down on my brother, the same way that other people did. And so I felt guilty. And the guilt made me angry. Because it wasn’t fair to me and it wasn’t fair to Ben.
Distance at college didn’t make it any better. In fact, it sort of made it worse. I remember at one point my junior year (that is, my brother’s senior year, when he was 18) my mom and I were talking, and she let me know that Ben was seeing someone. I was so happy about that. I don’t know, I guess I had worried that maybe he would never find anyone. I mean, I knew unattractive people got married and had kids and everything…but I worried for some reason.
The relief I felt dissipated quickly. My mom sent me the girl’s picture. She was…not attractive. I guess that would’ve been fine, if she was nice. But over the next few weeks, my mom described the contours of their relationship. This girl, Amber, she would tell my brother she was on her way over, and then make him wait at home for hours to show up. She was apparently strangely possessive, jealous of anytime that he spent with anyone else, including the family. She was dismissive of gifts and events that my brother planned. Finally, my mom said that this new girlfriend berated my brother in public, even in front of the family. It was a relief, three months later, when she broke up with him to go back to her old boyfriend (even if he was heartbroken about it).
I know that any person can get hooked up with someone who is not compatible with them. Trust me, I know. But I still felt terrible. That was my brother’s first experience with a girlfriend and it was a total dud. She was terrible. She hurt him. And she wasn’t even pretty, so how was that worth it? It was like the best he could hope for was ugly and mean. The guilt came back, deeper than ever.
I went back home for Christmas break about three weeks after Ben and Amber broke up. The feelings were still raw for Ben. He was moping around the house when I got there. He didn’t say much. Not even to me. He didn’t seem upset about Amber being gone, he clearly recognized her limitations as a girlfriend. But he seemed unhappy to be alone again. I didn’t blame him. But my guilt was heavier every time I saw him. I tried, desperately, to think of something that I could do to make him feel better. To make everything better. But nothing came to mind. I just grew more anxious as Ben grew more sullen.
It all sort of came to a head four days before Christmas. My best friend growing up, Christine, came home from college that day. We went to different schools on opposite sides of the state. We kept in touch, but only very rarely got to see one another. Christine didn’t even bother to go home, she had all her laundry in the back of her car and she came to my house. We sat down in the kitchen with some coffee and, after the normal preliminaries (so good to see you, etc.) caught up.
“Are you still seeing Andy?” I asked her. She scrunched up her nose and sort of looked out of the side of her eye.
“Who?” she asked, and I laughed.
“Andy!” I said, “The guy you were telling me about the last time I saw you. In the summer.”
“Andy?” she asked and closed her eyes and rubbed her head, “Oh shit, yeah. That guy. I wasn’t seeing him Rach. I just, you know, slept with him a couple of times over the summer. Christ, how did you remember him when I didn’t?” I laughed and sort of shook my head. I’d known Christine since we were little. In high school she’d developed a reputation, but she’d sort of denied that she deserved it. Since she’d gone away to college, she’d just embraced who she was. She liked a lot of variety in her sex and didn’t care what people thought about that. I respected her attitude even if I didn’t share it.
“Sorry,” I said, “I try to keep my spreadsheet up to date, but it isn’t always easy.” Christine laughed a little bit.
“Andy, yeah, he was okay,” she said finally, “maybe I will give him a call while I am in town…” At that moment, Ben walked into the kitchen and opened up the fridge. He looked mopey and didn’t say anything. Nonetheless, Christine noticed him.
“Hey Ben, how’s senior year going?” she asked. Ben looked up, sort of surprised out of his misery. His eyes flickered up to Christine and I thought I saw a little bit of a flash.
“Oh, hi Christine,” he said, “I didn’t see you. Good, going good.”
“Didn’t see me? Christ am I losing my looks in my old age?” Christine asked. She had known since we were all little that Ben had a crush on her. Rather than pussyfoot around it, she had sort of always teased him about it. I think he kind of liked it. Christine was absolutely gorgeous, and she sometimes paid attention to him. He laughed at her joke now, but didn’t say anything, his cheeks just got a little red.
“Hey don’t sweat Amber, you can do better,” Christine said after a moment. I quickly kicked her under the table.
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